Healing Power of Sound: Essentials of Music Therapy
Sound in an extraordinary thing. It impacts our emotions and thoughts in so many different ways – both negative and positive. Listening to music can be calming and enjoyable, but it can also be annoying and irritating if the volume is excessive.
When it comes to music and other sounds, quality is subjective, one that depends on taste; the quantity of it (as measured by volume, in decibels), however, is incredibly objective, and can be quantified. Being exposed to very loud sounds, particularly for extended periods of time, can permanently damage the delicate hair cells that permit us to hear, and cause noise-induced hearing loss. Noise exposure is a massive problem in America. Some estimates are that one in every five individuals has some level of tinnitus or hearing loss as a direct result of noise. Its easy to understand how excessive volume can cause anxiety, but so too can really soft sounds. For instance, the leaky drip of a faucet or ticking of a clock have been shown to trigger anxiety, stress and insomnia.
On the flip side, sound can be used to lower stress and anxiety and even treat some aspects of hearing loss. Many individuals have experienced the soothing effects of soft music, the relaxing sound of falling water or ocean surf, or the meditative sounds of Tibetan singing bowls or chanting. These sorts of sounds are increasingly being used to treat anxiety rather than create it, and are similarly being used by hearing specialists to treat tinnitus rather than cause it. Music therapy has been used to speed recovery in hospitals, to facilitate rehabilitation of stroke victims, and as an effective treatment to slow the advance of Alzheimer’s dementia. White noise generators, which intentionally generate a mixture of frequencies to conceal other sounds, are helping insomniacs get a better night sleep and office workers disregard distracting background noise.
In the field of audiology, music therapy and sound therapy are exhibiting encouraging results as a tinnitus treatment option. While the music doesn’t make the tinnitus go away, the audiologist is able to work with the patient to psychologically mask the ringing or buzzing sounds. Hearing specialists and audiologists trained in music therapy for tinnitus sufferers use carefully chosen music tracks to retrain the mind to focus on foreground sounds instead of the background buzzing from tinnitus. While the tinnitus ringing doesn’t disappear, the anxiety and stress that it otherwise produces are reduced. The patients learn to focus attention on appealing sounds in favor of undesirable ones.
For tinnitus sufferers searching for new treatment options, music therapy is worth considering. Contact us to discuss your particular situation.
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